A FitCuba donkey on a stall.

As you know Dear Readers, I used to visit Cuba every May for the FitCuba Fair.

Then the Cuban Tourist Board got a new Head of Tourism in London, Miguel, who didn’t like me for some reason.

But he went back to Cuba a year earlier, so he obviously didn’t like London much either, and now the Cuban Tourist Board has a new Manager, Joel, who is a lovely man and he likes me and my writing, so I’m back on track!

I’m so happy because I’ve really missed Cuba. It’s one of my favourite countries.

This year FitCuba was being held in the Eastern Province of Holguin, at the massive Hotel Playa Pesquero, and the Guest Country was Germany.

I’d never been to Holguin before, so I was looking forward to seeing it.

We arrived late in the evening in Havana, where we were staying overnight and catching a domestic flight to Holguin the next morning.

Music everywhere!

Had anything changed? Not noticeably, I thought as the taxi bumped over the potholes in the road, and I saw a stream of water from a leaking pipe!

In the morning we went to catch our flight to Holguin. We queued for several hours in the hot airport. There were people at the check-in desks, but they didn’t seem to be checking anyone in!

I recognised several familiar faces. Apparently we were all going to FitCuba.

Finally, rumour spread along the queue that they were overbooked. So why weren’t they booking anyone in? And would we get in? We had tickets.

We moved to another desk and found someone to help us.

I speak Spanish, but not at the speed it was being spoken!

After a lot of arm-waving, the man on the check-in desk finally put a label on my case and it disappeared behind him. Would my case and I be on the same flight?

He got up and went to talk to a female who had a check-in desk but hadn’t checked anyone in.

We’d met some journalists from other countries and loyally waited to see that they were OK.

The Kempinski at the opening ceremony.

Check-in man finally returned and booked another passenger and case in. One per 10 minutes. No wonder the flight was delayed! If he could check people and their luggage in as fast as he could speak, we’d all have been through there in record time!

At last we all made it on to the plane. It didn’t seem to be overbooked at all. In fact there were a couple of empty seats! So why was it late?

Don’t ask me!

I sat next to Xavier, the General Manager of Kempinski Hotels. He invited me to see the new luxury hotel, the Gran Hotel Manzana in Havana, which was due to open at the end of May. Kempinski had a stand at FitCuba.

See Lazaro’s article;


Our driver was waiting patiently for us. He didn’t seem at all surprised that we were late.

The hotel Blau Costa Verde was lovely. And as it was all-inclusive, we all headed for one of the many bars after dumping our luggage in our rooms.

Oh the seafront! All niggles and tensions vanished instantly as I gazed at the turquoise sea and the pale golden sand, and listened to the familiar beat of Salsa music wafting from the hotel grounds.

Cuba must be the only country in the world that’s had the same Top 20 for more than 20 years!

Hello Cuba, I’m back and I’ve missed you, hassles and all! What’s the point of worrying and getting in a state? It all gets sorted out in the end. Music and mojitos definitely help!

In the morning we were transported to the opening of FitCuba.

I walked around it in the Cuban heat. The stands were more permanent, in hotel apartments with air conditioning, but I was disappointed not to see the usual selection of craft stalls.

When I sat down in the hotel foyer to get some energy back, Martin the German journalist dashed past and stopped. ‘Have you seen any Germans?’ he asked.

Old steam train in hotel grounds

I pointed. ‘they’ve got a stand over there,’ I replied.

‘Thanks!’ he said and rushed off.

Next year the UK is the Guest Country for the first time. I wonder what entertainment they’ll provide?

I do hope I’m invited there to see it!

More about Cuba in another article soon….

Isabel D. Jimenez

Cuba Tourist Office

Embassy of Cuba

167 High Holborn

London WC1V 6PA

Tel: 020 7240 6655

Email: tourism@travel2cuba.co.uk




Virgin flies from Gatwick to Cuba twice a week.


When I’m flying, I usually book into the No 1 Travel Lounge.

I get a comfortable seat, plus free food and drink.

All drinks are free, except Champagne.

It can work out the same, or even cheaper, than buying everything in the main airport Departures.

If the flight’s delayed (as they often are!) I can relax and check the Departures board from time to time.